This fall, the Augsburg College women’s volleyball team qualified for the NCAA Division III National Tournament for the second straight year, an achievement that marked its reemergence as a regional powerhouse.
Recent team successes—which include back-to-back co-conference championship seasons and several All-American honors—hearken back to the achievements of Augsburg’s earliest volleyball teams.
The first few years
Augsburg launched its varsity volleyball program in 1972 when students Nancy Soli Mollner ’75, Marilyn Pearson Florian ’76, and Cindy Schendel ’76 walked into the office of Athletic Director Joyce Anderson Pfaff ’65 to ask about joining Augsburg’s volleyball team. Anderson Pfaff didn’t have the heart to tell the passionate students that there was no team at the time, so she created one on the spot.
Augsburg’s first volleyball players proved their sport was to become a staple in Auggie athletics, and in 1973 the College hired star coach Mary Timm. The next year, the volleyball team earned a perfect 8-0 record at home.
While there were 14 women on the roster during the 1974 season, six Auggies played nearly every minute of the regular season and did, in fact, play every minute of the postseason. The Auggies completed the regular season with a 15-4 record, which earned them a spot in the Minnesota Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women State Tournament, where teams competed against one another regardless of their schools’ sizes or types. After beating Concordia-St. Paul, Bemidji State, and the University of Minnesota-Duluth, the Auggies faced the No. 1 seeded University of Minnesota in the finals. Soli—a setter and team captain—dislocated her thumb in the first game, but adrenaline allowed her to continue to play, ensuring that the Auggies could maintain the offensive strategy they had in place all season.
Augsburg didn’t win the tournament, but its second- place finish secured a bid to participate in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Region 6 Tournament at the University of Nebraska. However, there was one more obstacle to overcome: the team was ineligible to participate because of an issue with its AIAW membership.
Anderson Pfaff was determined to remedy the issue, so she and Soli filed a complaint with the District of Minnesota fourth court. After the Auggies successfully argued their case, United States District Judge Miles Lord allowed Augsburg to participate in the regional tournament, but his ruling was made just one day before the tournament was set to begin. When they got the news, the Auggie crew jumped in vans and drove all night, arriving in Lincoln, Neb., at 3 a.m. only to find that there was no place to stay due to a Nebraska-Oklahoma football game that weekend.
At the regional competition, the underdog Auggies ended up playing 10 matches in only three days and earned a fourth-place finish—the best finish for an Auggie volleyball team until its NCAA tournament appearances in 1982, 2013, and 2014.
Augsburg College volleyball alumnae from across the past four decades continue to support the talented students who take to the court in Si Melby gymnasium each fall. Alumnae involvement ranges from cheering in the stands to encouraging the young women as they venture out into their careers and callings after college.
Current Head Coach Jane Becker, a two-time MIAC and Region Coach of the Year, sees firsthand the ways that those from the College’s past help uplift its future.
“Being a part of rebuilding the Auggie volleyball program has truly been a remarkable experience,” Becker said. “I am so blessed to work with such a talented group of student- athletes and to be so supported by an amazing group of Auggie alumnae.”